Used biplanes in the Luftwaffe during World War II

There are all kinds of judgments and prejudices about the Italian armed forces. Perhaps that's why it sounds a little strange that it was probably Italian military pilots who were the first to use military powered aircraft in a war.

Under the captain Carlo Piazza there was an air detachment with nine planes during the Italo-Turkish war, in the wake of which Libya became an Italian colony. In October 1911, Piazza flew a reconnaissance mission over the Turkish lines near Benghazi.

Disregarding the fact that the Mexican government had hired two US aviation pioneers a few months earlier to scout the positions of insurgents from the air (and a little later crashed into the Rio Grande), Piazza's flight over the Libyan desert was the premiere of one new kind of warfare.

In November 1911, members of his air battalion threw explosives, a type of hand grenade, from an aircraft for the first time in war history.

Airships, airplanes and later rockets as well as unmanned guided or unguided missiles have not only revolutionized the battlefield since the First World War. In addition, starting in 1914, they continued to expand the boundaries of the battlefield.

The tactical and sometimes strategic use of bombers in the First World War was the prelude to the area bombing of the Second World War, which made a decisive contribution to what the Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels conjured up as "total war" in the Berlin Sports Palace would have.

The aviators took over tasks of the cavalry

At the end of the 20th century - and actually it still is today - the entire world population was held hostage by those atomically equipped carrier weapons that can reach any point on earth.

The effects of the armed drones, the pilotless, digitally controlled aircraft, which, as it were, as the great-grandchildren of the flying machines of Capitano Piazza 100 years after Gaddafi's fall, were also used over Libya, are less terrible in their effects, but still terrifying enough.

When compared to infantry or artillery, the Air Force's history is short. It begins in earnest with the First World War. In 1912 the English founded their "Royal Flying Corps", the kingdoms of Prussia and Bavaria also set up small flight departments. Something similar happened in Russia and France.

At the beginning of the war, the larger powers had a hodgepodge of aviator units, each counting only a few hundred machines, which were primarily used for reconnaissance and communication.

The aviators had thus taken on tasks that had been reserved for the cavalry for centuries. It is no coincidence that a not inconsiderable part of the officer corps of the new troop was recruited from the cavalry.

However, the Germans not only relied on the rather fragile single- or double-deckers, but also on the guided airship, which is still associated with the name of Count Zeppelin to this day. Zeppelins could not only fly much further than airplanes, but could also stay in the air for nearly 40 hours.

At the beginning of the war, Germany had just under a dozen airships. The rigid, gas-filled zeppelins were seen as ideal long-range combat machines - at least at the beginning of the war, hardly any aircraft reached the heights at which zeppelins sailed through the air.

The first air raid in World War I was carried out by a zeppelin: LZ 6 (LZ stood for airship Zeppelin) dropped modified artillery shells over Liège, Belgium on August 6, 1914.

It fits in with the fact that the first air raid against Germany, flown by four English planes that had taken off in Antwerp, was directed against one of the home ports of the zeppelins: On September 22, 1914, British naval aviators bombed zeppelin hangars in Düsseldorf, later also attacked the Zeppelin base in Cologne. Even Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance was targeted by British double-deckers that had been packed in boxes and made it through half of France.

German bombs rain on London

The English zeppelin phobia was mainly due to the fact that the Germans repeatedly flew attacks on England with their airships until 1917, especially at night on London. The damage and the number of victims were relatively low.

The German Gotha bombers, twin-engined monsters that were used for tactical attacks against positions, artillery or depots on the fronts, as well as long-range bombers against the east coast of the British Canal and against London, caused more harm.

Their counterparts on the side of the Allies were Handley Page bombers, with which the British bombed Ludwigshafen or Kaiserslautern in 1918, for example. The last German Gotha attack on London took place in May 1918.

However, it is not the Gothas but rather the zeppelins that have stuck in the collective memory of the British. The attacks by the initially inaccessible and unreliable airships meant, on the one hand, the expansion of warfare to the deep hinterland and the civilian population.

On the other hand, for the first time in centuries, actually since the Norman conquest in 1066, the zeppelins broke through the invulnerable security of the British Isles, which neither the Spanish Armada in 1588 nor the archenemy Napoleon had been able to damage.

Unlike the motorized aircraft, however, the military airship was only a small additional chapter in the history of aerial warfare. The zeppelins suffered enormous losses in the war; the "Zeppelin weapon" was de facto destroyed by enemy action and accidents. The fame of the zeppelins finally faded with the explosion of the civil American zeppelin LZ 129 Hindenburg on May 6, 1937 in Lakehurst, New York.

Even though most of the aircraft during the First World War were used as reconnaissance aircraft, artillery observer and later also for armed support of the infantry and for attacking militarily relevant ground targets, the myth of the first great aerial warfare is inextricably linked with the fighter pilots.

The concept that you could fight other aircraft in the air did not yet play a major role in 1914. For one thing, the total number of aircraft was small; on the other hand, the targets in the air were more likely to be the tethered balloons, in whose gondolas artillery observers sat and directed the fire.

A Dutchman solves the "machine gun problem"

At first, many of the early single-seaters were not armed at all; the two-seater sometimes had a machine gun that the observer could use to the rear or to the side.

It was not advisable to install a machine gun to the front, i.e. in the direction of the pilot, because it had not yet been possible to synchronize the firing sequence of the machine gun with the propeller revolutions. The pilot, who would have operated a machine gun from his seat with the muzzle behind the propeller, would have shot his own propeller.

It was not until almost half of 1915 before the offices of Dutch aircraft designer Anton Fokker, who worked for Germany, developed a technique that synchronized propellers and machine guns.